Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts

Five Marcus Early Career Research Award winners announced


This year, the College of Liberal & Creative Arts’ Marcus Early Career Research Award will help five faculty members complete projects that explore a range of topics including challenges to the criminal justice reform movement, experiencing climate change virtually, ancient funerary shrouds and identity construction, a meditation on state violence against women, and teaching math through a philosophical lens.

Josh Davis

The Politics of Backlash: The forces behind the effort to ‘remove, recall, and replace’ reform-minded prosecutors in the U.S.

The successful 2022 recall of San Francisco’s embattled former district attorney Chesa Boudin was widely reported as the death knell for the progressive prosecutor movement. Assistant Professor of Journalism Josh Davis, who has previously written on the Boudin recall for the Washington Post, posits that the event did not happen in a vacuum but was, in fact, informed by something more complex. Boudin confronted a national, far right backlash against progressive prosecutors by forces that will stop at nothing to protect a system of mass incarceration, of which decades of research have shown to be a discriminatory and racist. His investigation into far right forces attempting to cripple the criminal justice reform movement will result in an exclusive story for a national news outlet.

Arezoo Islami

Exponential Freedom: on the Philosophical Approach to Mathematics

Assistant Professor of Philosophy Arezoo Islami proposes a novel philosophical approach to mathematics; one that promotes freedom and social justice. Her project is twofold. First, to create a teacher training manual to help colleagues in College of Creative & Liberal Arts and beyond teach mathematics in an innovative, philosophical way. Second, to publish two research articles in peer-reviewed journals drawing on her experience in implementing this philosophy and pedagogy of mathematics. The first paper focuses on the philosophical approaches to teaching mathematics. The second paper focuses on the applicability of mathematics in quantum mechanics and draws on her experience of teaching complex mathematical constructs to students who are, at first, terrified of them.

Lissette M. Jiménez

Contextualizing and Curating Painted Funerary Shrouds from Roman Egypt

In her planned book “Funerary Shrouds from Roman Egypt: Contextualizing Sacred Images,” Assistant Professor of Museum Studies Lissette M. Jiménez explores the complex biographies of funerary shrouds from multicultural Roman Egypt within the colonial context in which they were removed from Egypt, the ancient Egyptian context in which they were created and used, and the modern context in which they are displayed to audiences in museums. Unlike earlier scholarship, Jiménez’s research closely examines the physical and functional properties of the under studied and misinterpreted funerary representations and moves toward a recognition of the social dimensions, materiality, and iconographic components of these objects. Funerary shrouds and their contextualization provide an entry point for discussions of identity construction, cultural exchange, museum display, and public perception.

Joshua McVeigh-Schultz

Experiential Climate Futures in VR

Through richly embodied experiences in virtual reality (VR), Assistant Professor of Design Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, plans to depict speculative future scenarios related to climate change. His project seeks to address a key challenge of climate change, that despite its deep involvement with so many aspects of our economy and society, its threat can feel abstracted from our daily lives. While we can imagine its impact on the future, we still confront what futurists lament as an “experiential gulf” between our ability to imagine the future and our ability to experience it. But by simulating possible future scenarios in VR, we can begin to experience the reality of climate change with and through our bodies. The meta-narrative of the VR experience will ground the user in relation to a set of actions that can be taken, or not taken, by society resulting in specific impacts upon the amount of global temperature change.

Shabnam Piryaei

The Victory Belongs to Love

What is the generational cost of state violence against women, and how do women resist this violence daily? This is the central question posed by “The Victory Belongs to Love,” a 30 minute autobiographical documentary to be produced by Assistant Professor of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Shabnam Piryaei that explores the relationship between women and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Using mixed media including archival footage, visual art, media sent through mobile devices from Iran, and her own footage taken here in the U.S., she widens the lens—historically and geographically—to consider the stark violence and repression we are now seeing against women in Iran. Piryaei tells this story by looking both at women living in Iran, and those who live in diaspora—including herself.


About the Marcus Early Career Research Award

The Marcus Early Career Research Award is supported by the George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts and provides a one-semester leave. It funds projects in research, scholarship and creative activities. Probationary tenure-track faculty in their third, fourth or fifth year are eligible.

Unversity shield next to George and Judy Marcus Funds spelled out

Winners of Marcus Transformative Research Award announced


Three College of Liberal & Creative Arts faculty members are this year's recipients of the Marcus Transformative Research Award and will support research in subjects that include the potential for aesthetics and art to enhance cultural understanding, ballroom culture as a space for both healing and celebration, and an examination of racism, xenophobia, and homophobia through the lens of Korean pop music.

Hamid Khani

Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Professor Hamid Khani will produce “Cultural Harmony: In Search of a Common Ground,” a documentary film that explores the potential role of aesthetics and art as tools for cultural understanding. The documentary will explore five ancient Judeo-Christian monuments in Iran to promote cultural harmony in an effort to dispel narratives of fear, exclusion and mistrust. The documentary is centered on inclusive, diverse and equitable narrative and constructivist frameworks in search of common cultural heritage and similarities between Judeo-Christian, Iranian and Islamic architecture, art, aesthetics and culture.

“I am excited about this project and thankful to both the college committee and the LCA leadership for giving me the opportunity to highlight our common humanities despite all the noise promoting otherness and us against them mentality through my project,” says Khani. “This project is an attempt to contribute to our diverse, yet similar, stories and experiences in line with the LCA's mission ‘to find collective solutions to pressing global and social issues.’”

Johnny Symons

“Get Your 10s” is a feature-length documentary planned by Associate Professor of Cinema Johnny Symons that follows Rashaad Newsome, a Black queer artist from the American South, as he creates his most ambitious project yet: a multi-platform, experiential performance at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory. Complete with a 30-foot hologram, a gospel choir, the premier vogue dancers from the US, Japan, Brazil, and Ukraine, and a spirited non-binary artificial intelligence named Being, Rashaad transforms a historic military building into a sanctuary for healing and celebration. In the process, he reveals how art and ballroom culture can help us collectively imagine a brighter future.

“In the wake of the pandemic and a difficult economy, it’s an especially challenging time to complete a feature-length documentary and this award provides me with the ability to dig deeply into crafting this important story. At a time when LGBTQ+ lives are being increasingly denigrated and legislated, this film showcases the talents of queer, trans and BIPOC artists and dancers and inspires us to use our imaginations to work towards a more equitable world,” says Symons. “The time and funds afforded by this award will go directly towards editing, finishing and releasing the film in festivals and streaming services, with the collaborative support of SFSU students and recent alums.”

Yutian Wong

“Dancing in the Archives of Sincerity” is a book planned by Theatre & Dance Professor Yutian Wong about the intersection of a global health crisis, the resurgence of anti-Asian racism, and dance studies. Using the Korean pop music act BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondon) as a case study, the book examines how conversations about racism/xenophobia, homophobia, cultural hierarchies, and the roles and responsibilities of the artist in society are taking place from the space of Asian popular culture.

“How dance is produced, performed, and taught changed overnight when theaters, studios, and other public spaces closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Professor Wong. “Long-held assumptions about dance and how to conduct dance research were completely upended, so my book is a response to teaching about dance and doing dance research in the aftermath of a global health crisis. This Marcus Transformative Research Award affords me the time to reflect on this massive disciplinary shift and complete the book manuscript.”


About the The Marcus Transformative Research Award

The Marcus Transformative Research Award provides one semester leave with pay and a $3,000 research budget. The award is made possible by the George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts, which was established in 2018 with a $25-million gift to SF State.


George and Judy Marcus for Excellence in Liberal Arts

Student named All-American in forensics after placing third in national tournament

Political Science major’s speech garners standing ovation from judges and peers moved to tears 

A member of the San Francisco State University Forensics team made school history this month with several top honors at a national tournament, including an All-American award. But it’s the impassioned performance that may have the longest-lasting impact.  

Student Kivraj “Ki” Singh (pronouns: that/that’s), San Francisco State’s sole representative at the American Forensics Association National Speech Tournament in Santa Ana, earned third place nationwide in After-Dinner Speaking, among 126 competitors including Ivy League schools. In addition, that was named an All-American and an Oral Interpretation semifinalist.  

“Each of Ki’s speeches was written and performed from the deepest parts of that’s soul, and it’s heartening to know that so many others were able to witness and celebrate that’s work,” said Sage Russo, a Forensics coach and a Communication Studies lecturer. “The team couldn’t be more proud.” 

Singh (pictured at top left, holding trophy) delivered a speech advocating for safe injection and consumption sites for drug users, based on their lived experiences as well as case studies and research. That garnered a standing ovation from judges and peers who were moved to tears. 

“After coming out in high school, I struggled with alcoholism, homelessness, weed and tobacco use and some hard drugs as well,” Singh said. “I had a lot of personal insight into the subject, but my speech also came at a time that was very exigent because Gov. Gavin Newsom had just vetoed a bill that was going to include safe injection sites in many California cities. It gave it a fresh and unique spin.” 

Singh graduates this May with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. That entered SF State after competing in forensics at Chabot College and at James Logan High School in Union City. A class discussion on source citation from Singh’s first semester at SF State invigorated Singh, introducing a more advanced curriculum and setting the tone for an inspirational University experience. 

“I really had this revelation sitting in class, like whoa! This is going to change the game for me! This is what I’ve been waiting for!” Singh said. “This is where it gets technical and it becomes political science.” 

On campus this year, Singh has enjoyed a George and Judy Marcus Undergraduate Fellowship. This donor-funded program has funded that’s research paper, “Democratic Queer Theory: Extending LGBTQ+ Civil and Social Rights Globally,” in partnership with a faculty mentor, Assistant Professor of Political Science Amanda Roberti. Singh plans to use it as a sample paper in applying to doctoral programs in political science.  

Learn more about the SF State departments of Political Science and Communication Studies and the George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts

Trans Brilliance, Trans Futures: Leading Writers Speak Out

Join us for Trans Brilliance, Trans Futures: Leading Writers Speak Out, an SFSU Creative Writing Department Virtual Panel.

Julián Delgado Lopera
Jo Livingstone
Denne Michele Norris

Moderated by Carolina (Caro) De Robertis, Associate Professor, Creative Writing Department.

Co-hosted by May-lee Chai, Acting Chair of the Creative Writing Department and the Queer and Trans Resource Center.

Supported by the George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts.

Black Counter Cartographies

Tonya M. Foster and Eleeza Kelley will be in conversation as part of Columbia University's IRAAS Center's Black Counter-Geographies Series. Akin to the way that racial thinking marks and makes human difference, geographic knowledge and its modes of representation mark differences - above from below ground, land from water, here from there, mine from yours. The field of Black Geographies challenges and re-imagines modernity's production of space (and time), one that has been abstracted by the metrics of markets and politics. BLACK COUNTER CARTOGRAPHIES brings together diverse scholars, artists, and designers in a series of conversations exploring the spatial practices of Black life across the diaspora and how they construct "counter cartographies" of sociality, imagination and liberation. This event is happening in the virtual zones.

Campus community pays tribute to women of Iran through music, poetry

San Francisco State University students, faculty and alumni are coming together for several events this month supporting women’s rights in Iran. Admission is free. 

Professor Persis Karim, director of the San Francisco State Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, organized the events with Music Professor Hafez Modirzadeh. Karim says the events are a tribute to the “brave women, girls and youth of Iran and, more importantly, students, who continue to fight for their rights even in the midst of severe state violence.”

Read the full article.